FreePort is the third most populous city in Atla. It is also the single busiest port in the nation and serves as a nexus for sea travel throughout the region. A vast majority of its residents live within the city itself, though a small percentage live in the outlying villages and commute into and out of the city each day. Thousands of sailors, merchants, and travelers come and go each day and often call the countless hotels and boarding houses their homes away from home.
FreePort City is square in shape with each length stretching 4 miles. Three massive walls, each 10 to 15 feet tall and 3 feet thick, surround the city save for the coastal side. Another set of walls surround the arena grounds, built to the same 4 mile dimensions, with a shared wall running east/west and separating the city proper from the park-like grounds of the arena. The city is divided into several oddly shaped districts, though the districts are divided municipally instead of with walls. Among the districts are the Housing Districts (2), Market Districts (2), Parks District (1), Industrial District (1), and the Provincial District (1). Directly south of the city is the FreePort Arena, which is centrally located one mile south of the shared city/arena wall in a region of oak trees, rolling hills, and natural grasslands known as the FreePort Coastal Park. The arena itself is the largest building in the Valley of Gent, standing 350 feet tall and some 750 feet long.
Because of its central location along the western seaboard of Atla and central position between both Far Haven and Feron, FreePort has served as a waypoint or stop for almost all vessels crossing the Atlan Sea. However, FreePort is unique for port cities in that the goods it sees each day rarely stray beyond the city’s walls. FreePort is isolated in the Valley of Gent. And though the region is known for lumber mills, vineyards, and beautiful scenery, it does not offer direct access to the rest of Atla. The docks, then, are like a miniature city unto themselves, providing everything sailors, fishermen and women, merchants, travelers, and visitors might need in one convenient location.
FreePort City’s two most recognized and distinguishing features are its great wall and arena. The city wall was constructed approximately 750 years ago around 510 PM. Long before the formation of the Atlan nation the city served as a nexus for trade between Feron, Far Haven, and Atla. The volume of trade and goods arriving at its docks brought wealth and power to the people living in the region. FreePort was the largest and most populous city on Atla between 500 and 100 PM (beaten by Westlake around 100 PM).
While FreePort city itself saw great prosperity, the people beyond the city proper lived very different lives than those within. The Valley of Gent has long been used for farming and ranching (and is home to the occasional vineyard). But nothing is or was more important to the locals as lumber and lumber mills.
Sometime around 520 PM the Count of FreePort decided to increase the taxes and fees for carrying goods into the city and shipping them from the port. This increase in taxes did not affect the docks or the overseas merchants and was in reality a thinly veiled ruse to extort the people of the Valley. At this time the nation was not unified and cities and provinces were governed locally, which meant the Count was more or less free to do as he pleased. Though it was powerful, FreePort City’s influence was isolated to roughly the same area the city occupies today. Those living beyond the walls were not subject to the Count or his rules anymore than the people of Floran or Grey Hearth might be.
Few of the lumber mills were willing to comply with the Count’s new initiative. And as much as they hoped to broker deals of their own and bypass the Count literally and figuratively, there were no other major ports in the Valley and only one road into and out of the city at its eastern end. In effect, the Count could watch, manage, and oversee everything that happened in and around the city and the lumber companies were forced to let it happen.
After a year of imposing heavy fines and taxes on any lumber companies who tried to use the FreePort docks to sell their goods, hostilities escalated. What were once disparate groups of family owned mills became a unified body of angry workers. The people formed a makeshift militia and armed themselves with not just swords, pikes, and glaives, but more devious weapons as well.
The militia, some 5,000 men strong, marched towards FreePort, determined to end the embargo through diplomacy or blood. Half a dozen men, representatives from the lumber mills and surrounding villages, marched ahead to give the Count one last opportunity to end the embargo. If that failed the troops behind were ready to march into the city.
As they expected the Count not only disagreed but threw the representatives out of the capital. Not long after, the group of 5,000 men marched into the city carrying with them several carts full of lumber. Under the guise of traders looking to ship their goods from the docks the men filled the city streets from east to west. Once everyone was in place the war cry was sounded and the battle began. But the battle did not begin with an assault on the Count or his guards. Rather, the militiamen set fire to the hundreds of tons of lumber they brought with them, leaving the carts to burn in the streets, parks, neighborhoods, and docks. It wasn’t long before the fires spread from the carts to the buildings. Within an hour 75% of the city was ablaze. Despite the chaos from the fire the Count sent his private guards to put an end to the militia as opposed to extinguishing the fires. A brief but bloody battle ensued.
After the fires were finally extinguished (thanks to the effort of the local people and some traders) and the battle finished more than 2,000 people were dead and ten times that were injured (many with severe burns), though the Count was not among them. The militia was able to defeat the Count’s private army, though the Count himself escaped. The militia likely would have captured the capital building and waited for the Count to return but the growing blaze threatened to consume it, forcing them to retreat.
Whatever the militia hoped to achieve did not happen. Once the fires had been extinguished and the Count returned he didn’t focus on rebuilding the damaged or destroyed buildings. Instead, the Count ordered construction of a massive wall around three of the four sides of the City. 9 years later the city was busier than ever and a massive stone wall protected everyone inside.
The embargo continued for several more years. The militiamen continued with strategic attacks and other attempts to put an end to the Count’s rule but it was all in vain. At length the Count passed away, though it was from a strange illness, not the militia. When the Count passed on the new ruler lifted the embargo and welcomed trade with the surrounding mills. Though relations between FreePort and the rest of the Valley were once again friendly and mutually beneficial, the wall around FreePort still stood as a reminder of a more violent past.
The FreePort City arena was constructed around 499 PM at the request of the ruling Count. For over a decade after the war the people of FreePort City and those throughout the Valley of Gent saw greater prosperity and unity than they had in over 100 years. The Count, in an effort to put FreePort’s troubled past behind and welcome even more people from beyond the Valley itself, built the largest arena in the ancient or modern world. It took 20 years to construct the stone behemoth and the event was marked by a weeklong celebration that would later evolve into the FreePort Solstice Festival. The first events held in the arena involved concerts, dances, and beast-slaying shows. Over time the arena has seen every type of event, show, demonstration, or attraction humanity could devise (and would fit within the walls). And though it has been repaired, retrofitted, and updated countless times over the past 600 years it is still used every year for the Solstice Festival, entertaining thousands of locals and tourists in the process. During the year 150 EM the northern half of the FreePort Coastal Park was redesigned. Thousands of small oak trees were planted in neat rows between the arena and the shared wall, running the entire length of the park from the east to the western coast. Today the trees are fully grown and provide some of the most beautiful scenery anywhere in the Valley.
FreePort City is still under the rule of a count, although the title is more historic than accurate. Today’s count acts as mayor of the city and is responsible to the Grand Council.
FreePort city is currently under the rule of Count Gerald Iseman who will be the last in the Iseman line to rule the city. Every 75 years FreePort city holds a general election to pick the new successor to the city. While it is democratic, (and everyone is allowed to vote including children) voters do not choose a single count. Instead, residents vote for a family who will rule for three generations until the grandchild (or third generation) passes away. In the event of a tragic death or an absence of children immediate family members will take control and continue governing the city until the 75 years have passed.
During an election year businesses and organizations slow their work, events are canceled or scaled down (save for the Solstice Festival), and any city projects that are not necessary are postponed, all to focus on finding the proper family. Family nominations begin five years prior to an election year during which time the pool of candidates is narrowed through preliminary voting, background checks (the family cannot have a criminal record), and straight refusal (permission is not required to nominate a family). Once a winner is determined the entire family is sworn in and takes their rightful place at the head of the city.